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#WHOAEducationNation (Part I) (UPDATED)

September 26, 2010

**Read Town Hall Panelist Stephen Lazar’s reflection on his NBC experience!**

I’m still recovering from the effects of web 2.0 over-stimulation (aka Education Nation’s Teacher Town Hall), so this will be fairly unpolished. You’ve been warned!

First off, I’m really pleased by how many teachers were able to stand up and say important things about the current school reform climate, and the reality we face in schools every day. I’m dismayed by how many people failed to realize that we do this EVERY DAY, though! There are so many fantastic edbloggers out there (check our “Good Reads” list for just a minor sampling), as well as Facebook groups, message boards on various sites, etc. Education Nation did NOT trigger a new conversation among teachers, though it did create another networking opportunity for us, which I appreciate. (For folks who enjoyed tweeting about this stuff today, join us today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter– #edreform #edchat #ecosys #elemchat #ptchat…these conversations are literally happening all the time!)

[Thanks, also, to those I was able to connect with– I will respond to you when I’m allowed to tweet again…]

Second: I’m not sure whether this was intentional or not, but by creating so many different ways for people to connect in such a short period of time, it actually made it very difficult to have a coherent discussion of any kind. If NBC seriously wants a substantive conversation (rather than a spectacle of teachers making one-off points while Brian Williams sweats and tries desperately not to run or cry), they should axe all the programming devoted to chatter among billionaires and dictators (SO dismayed by this morning’s Meet the Press lineup, BTW…) and make the WHOLE WEEK about targeted, broadcasted conversations among teachers, students, and parents about the issues facing education today. Figure out the biggest issues (by asking teachers, students & parents…), and then organize each day’s programming and discussion around each one. (For instance, today might have been about the purpose of education, tomorrow could be about recruitment and retention of quality teachers, Tuesday could be about funding and resources, etc.)

Third: I’m sincerely embarrassed for teachers my age, after hearing some of the ahistorical, uninformed comments coming out of some of the young teachers’ mouths! Obviously, people won’t all agree on the nuts and bolts of everyday practice, or what a “good” education looks like. That can and should be different for different people– we need that diversity.

But there is no excuse for just blatantly not knowing about the history of your profession and why certain practices and procedures (due process rights, etc.) are in place. When that one girl said that the union contract in regular public schools prevents teachers from working overtime to serve students, I wanted to throw something at the screen!

Teachers of my generation, I IMPLORE YOU: Take the time to learn something about the history of schooling in America (especially with regards to policy, pedagogy, and the ever-changing definitions of best practice), the history of the labor movement in general, about psychometrics (the science of educational testing) and about what cognitive and developmental psychologists have to say about how people learn. I urge you twice as much if you are someone who did not take a traditional route into the teaching profession. There is a reason you are preferred over older/professionally educated teachers, and it’s NOT because you’re better than they are! It’s because you’re cheaper, you know less, and you are therefore easier to manipulate. Don’t fall for it– don’t unwittingly participate in the de-professionalization of teaching. Our heart and dedication won’t matter if we lose the knowledge (and the protections) that help us do what’s really right for students.

I need to take a break from all this and let some information settle in my brain. More soon!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. thatsrightnate permalink
    September 26, 2010 1:43 pm

    Great article. Many of those young teachers didn’t see the necessary for things like due process because they didn’t need it yet. When I was a first year teacher, I was let go from a school because the Vice-Principal wanted to bring her best friend into our building. It was no big deal. The next year I got hired at another school that summer. Now that I’ve been teaching 10 years, I’ve seen that older teachers are not hired so quickly. I’m grateful for my union protecting me from losing my job without just cause. I do show up early and leave late each day.

  2. September 26, 2010 1:58 pm

    I think Sabrina it is not only young teachers who are missing that piece of the history of our profession and public education itself. The focus on test scores has led to a decade of professional conferences and endless publications on how to teach basic skills. A frenzy dash for trivia left the thirst for reflection on our history behind.
    Even our schools of education have been reducing their foundations course requirements over the past decade.
    And it does not end there we are all in danger of losing our sense of history as a nation as well. Did you notice there was no discussion about teaching history? Yes math and science were surveyed during the show, but not social studies. On my walk I encountered many history teachers who reported their class time were on the decline, and even met some who said they no longer teach history at their schools.
    What will our future look like without a solid foundation in history? We all lose out in that future, and Race To The Top appears to miss out on history all together.
    I am one of the many voices of resistance,

  3. September 26, 2010 4:06 pm

    Thank you for your comments. As an older (58) ex teacher, and 25 yr Independent Educational advocate for children in public K-12 schools and not tech savy, I agree wholeheartedly about the history. I added a discussion category to this facebook page on learning from the history of ed. It is something I have been involved in while attempting to change some specific horrific educational practices in the south where I’ve lived for 15 years. Perhaps others will bite. In addition, some of my own writings advances several theories about the current state of ed, why it exists (history again) and what we can learn to improve. EX. I would like to separate what I see as two separate branches of public ed – those whose job is to protect the Institution of public ed. At anothers suggestion, I call them endearingly “Institutionalists”. The State Legislators, local School Boards, School Board Attorneys in particular, and general Administrators whose sole purpose appears to be dedicated to protect the reputation and liability of public schools at all costs, while working with the political/lobbyist and wealthy career leadership elements in various states and local districts (particularly prevalent in the south and west . It is these folks, IMHO and experience, who although directly responsible for all decision making and policy implementation effecting a local school, these people who collectively aim their proverbial arrows away at diversionary targets – students, teachers and parents. This not only maintains their invisible responsibility, but successfully promotes bickering, arguing, punishment and all other diversionary conversations away in order to firmly, with help from the media, place blame in all the places that have no say in what they can teach, how they can test or basically manage their classrooms.

    And is particularly successful because 1) teachers do not, have not read any laws, regs at fed or state levels thus have no clue what they are mandated to do. 2) should they learn their rights, and the fact that children have rights and pursue this with their respective Administrative bosses, similar to the Catholic church – they will be fired for even questioning content and management as opposed to those whose ethics are questionable but tow the management line.

    You have no idea how much I want this discussion to work, to see some degree of change, especially for students in the south. Most of my youth and work history has been in the north, coming here (FL) 15 years ago was as shocking an experience as any I’ve ever known.

    Honestly, I see a dividing line by education growing in this country. Not as simple as the Mason-Dixon line, but a line non-the-less. I tried to retire 3 years ago, but circumstances will not allow. What I hear from parents, teachers and students in confidence is horrific. It makes me want to re-define child abuse to include classroom psychological torture. And if the teacher won’t comply, they will drag them out and bring in someone who will do what the Institutionalists say.

    I am not a crazy, although some think so. I can prove and have done so all I say and in a court of law and win. So while everyone is bickering about the specifics THEY want them to bicker about, they go un-noticed by everyone, and the teachers, students and parents continue to loose to no reform.

  4. September 26, 2010 4:40 pm

    Thank you Sabrina for the analysis and for the poke to newer teachers–or older ones who have not taken to time to learn about our professional history in this country. Interesting, while there are educators here in the Deep South who are themselves anti-union, when faced with unfair treatment on the job or when the state legislature is considering pay or benefit cuts, everybody seems to know the NEA or AFT’s 800 number.

  5. September 26, 2010 5:20 pm

    Like you, I’m trying to process.

    I went into the experience expecting NBC to have tight control on what got said, and was actually surprised at how authentic many of the voices were. The first three teachers said clearly that the teaching profession is under attack and provided reasonable evidence of that; there were some very articulate veteran teachers represented. I was anticipating clusters of hip,young teaching fellows pushing the “my students WILL make gains” line, and didn’t see that as the dominant narrative. I was also pleased by the former NY Teacher of the Year who said that claiming that a boy who didn’t win the charter school lottery could go to prison was deceptive and damaging.

    As for the very young woman who felt that she didn’t need tenure because “they” would see that she was good and “hire her again”–well, I probably actually used to be her. I spent the first two or three years of my career feeling vastly superior to the teachers who went home to be with their families while I stayed at school 24/7, basking in the glow of my principal’s praise. Then I had a family of my own, and ran into a couple of vicious and small-minded principals.

    Excellent but outspoken teachers always run the risk of encountering Little Napoleon administrators, or parents with an axe to grind. If the teacher who felt tenure unnecessary truly is “good,” she’s probably at greater risk than a consistently mediocre teacher who keeps her head down.

  6. September 26, 2010 7:52 pm

    I have written about this obsession with young, so called unjaded teachers too….

    Great article….posted it on my twitter


  7. Stephanie Dingman permalink
    September 27, 2010 9:18 am

    Teachers spoke…many were not heard due to the amount of internet traffic to MSNBC. Now, we need to continue to speak and BE LISTENED TO. We are the professionals. We are the experts. We do the job.

  8. September 29, 2010 8:36 pm

    Unfortunately, many of the young teachers buy this BS being fed to them by “reformers” and end up regurgitating many TFA-like talking points. I agree, though, they need to shut up.


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